What is a story? A story is essentially a journey. A journey from point A to point B in our mind. While reading a story the reader might be sitting in one place but might travel a great distance. This journey generates emotions in the mind of the reader. This journey in itself transverses through a longer timeline than what the reader takes to experience it.
A journey is a beautiful thing as it is an experience and an event bundled into one thing and its end begins a new chapter at its destination. A journey is a commitment towards an end. A story does the same for the reader.
Let’s break down the structure of the story in terms of an enthralling journey.
You begin a journey. It requires the belief that the journey would lead you somewhere and that is why you follow its path. The same way a good story has to draw the reader across a desirable path in order to stir up interest. The story has to seem inviting with a promise of better things to come. It is an art to enthrall the reader in the first few sentences, to make the reader look forward to something. This is what happens at the beginning of a journey; a journey can have a torrid or an amazing start. A torrid start would dampen the expectations from the journey and the travel might feel compelled to be critical along the rest of the way. You have to hook the reader in the first few paragraphs. Try to make your start relevant and absorbing without giving too much while creating a mist of mystery around the succeeding content. If you begin on a high, the reader would be warm and accepting towards the rest of your story.
The second and the major part of your journey, is the journey itself, the fact that you are moving from your source to your outcome. A story set-up builds into the body of the story. This is where ‘something’ happens. This ‘something’ can be any event of significance. Significance is a very manipulative concept. Any particular person can award varying degrees of significance to a situation while another person would dole out a totally different set of significance standards to that same situation. Significance, then, is in the eyes of the beholder. And there in lies your greatest tool as a writer. You can create significance over the most uneventful of circumstances. Maybe a traveler saw a passenger swatting away flies which made the traveler realize that he or she had forgotten to pack insect repellent. Not having insect repellent might change the entire experience factor of the traveler’s destination. This is a very practical and straightforward example. Within the body of the story, the journey, you can relate to any event or situation and signify its necessity in the pace of the proceedings. You guide the reader through your work all the while directing them to the various significant events in the story. You create experience stations and an action wagon in your journey. You can control the pace of the story as you want, but beware, if the journey is slower/faster than expected the traveler/reader would get bored/disoriented.
And finally, the destination. If you think about the term ‘destination’, it is only relevant because of the journey. Only a journey can have a destination. When you arrive at a place, you are there in the present and it is no longer your destination. It becomes your source. A destination is made significant only by the journey. The set-up and body of the story has to, ideally, lead to a logical convergence and conclusion. You have to make sure that the directions you let your reader take, has led to a fitting, expected or unexpected, destination. To put it simply, your story has to be compatible with its ending, don’t just go in for shock and awe and loose the plot; the plot has to be justifiable at all points. The emotions of a traveler after a good journey are bittersweet. The traveler is happy to have reached the destination but is still somber as the journey has ended. A journey, and a story, has to end, that is its nature, and what makes it relatable to life. The end would always be expected, how you as a writer deliver it, would make the reader remember you. The set-up defines the reader, the body defines the story, and the conclusion defines the writer.